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Page last updated at 16:52 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 17:52 UK

Woods targeting 15th major title

The 138th Open, Turnberry
Date: 16-19 July
Coverage: Live TV coverage on BBC Two, Online and the Red Button, live on Radio 5 Live and text commentary online on all four days

Tiger Woods
Woods will be playing the Open Championship at Turnberry for the first time

By Rob Hodgetts
BBC Sport at Turnberry

Tiger Woods seeks a 15th major title and Padraig Harrington a third straight Claret Jug when Turnberry hosts the 138th Open Championship on Thursday.

Woods missed Royal Birkdale last year through injury as Ireland's Harrington won back-to-back Open titles.

World number two Phil Mickelson is missing from the field of 156 to be with his wife who has breast cancer.

World number three Paul Casey will lead the home challenge as Britain seeks a first major champion in 10 years.

Woods, who won the last of his three Open titles at Hoylake in 2006, is the hot favourite to win on the Ayrshire coast after claiming three titles in his eight strokeplay events since returning from eight months out following knee surgery.

The world number one has also finished no worse than ninth since his comeback and is a confirmed admirer of links golf.

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"I just fell in love with being able to use the ground as a friend, as an ally," he said at Turnberry on Tuesday.

"Anytime you have a chance to lift the Claret Jug it's special."

Woods tees off at 0909 BST on Thursday, playing alongside England's Lee Westwood and young Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa.

Harrington went on to win the USPGA in Woods's absence last summer, and would become the first man since Australian Peter Thomson in 1952-54 to win a hat-trick of Opens.

But the 37-year-old has been struggling for form and has missed five of his last six cuts as he tries to bed down swing adjustments which he says will make him even better in the long-term.

"I've not really shown much form and I'm not really knowing what to expect," he said. "I could only be hopeful, rather than expectant, to put in a good performance this week."

Harrington not looking to create history

Harrington will begin his quest for a fourth major title at 1420 BST in the company of two former US Open champions, American Jim Furyk and Australian Geoff Ogilvy.

England's Casey rose to number three in the world after victories in Houston and at Wentworth this season and will spearhead the task of securing Britain's first major championship since Paul Lawrie won the Open at Carnoustie in 1999.

Compatriot Ian Poulter is also tipped by some to go one better than last year when he finished second behind Harrington at Royal Birkdale.

Another home player being talked up is Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy.

ROB HODGETTS BLOG

The 20-year-old, who became the youngest player ever to reach the world's top 50 at the end of last year, rose to prominence after a first-round 68 as an amateur in 2007.

Now ranked 22nd, McIlroy is one of the game's rising stars and could become the youngest winner of the Open since 1900.

Turnberry has staged the Open three times before and on each occasion the man arguably regarded as the best player in the world at the time triumphed - Tom Watson (1977), Greg Norman (1986) and Nick Price (1994).

The 59-year-old Watson, a five-time Open champion, is back this week, as is the 54-year-old Australian Norman, who almost stunned the golfing world when he led going into the final day at Birkdale last year before finishing tied for third.

The Ailsa course has been lengthened since 1994, with 247 yards added to make it a 7,204-yard par-70 test. Several holes have been resculpted, a host of bunkers have been added and the rough has been left to grow long to provide extra defence.

"It's a great venue, scenic and absolutely stunning," said Michael Brown, chairman of organising body the R&A's championship committee.

"We think it will be a good and fair test for the players. For the most part they all seem to have liked it in practice and we hope that will continue."

Despite the tough economic climate, which has led to a drop in corporate ticket sales, the R&A are expecting more than 120,000 people through the gates this week, a significant rise on the 114,000 attendance in 1994.

"It's a fabulous venue and must be kept on the Open rota."

The build-up to the tournament has been dominated by a spat between former Open and Masters champion Sandy Lyle and European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie.

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Lyle, when asked by reporters if his own decision to walk off after 10 holes of last year's Open had cost him the Ryder Cup captaincy, brought up an incident at the 2005 Indonesian Open when Montgomerie appeared to take an incorrect drop in a bunker after a rain delay.

Scotland's Lyle, trying to defend his decision to withdraw from the Open because of injury, accused his countryman of cheating.

He said sorry at a news conference on Tuesday but Montgomerie, who was cleared of any wrongdoing at the time, described it as a "rather strange apology".

England's Paul Broadhurst, New Zealand's former US Open champion Michael Campbell and 1989 Open winner Mark Calcavecchia of the US are the first group out at 0630 BST on Thursday.

The forecast is for sunshine and showers on Thursday and Friday and drier for the weekend, though Saturday and Sunday could see more breeze.



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see also
Woods fired up for Open success
14 Jul 09 |  Golf
Woods and Westwood paired at Open
13 Jul 09 |  Golf
Howell ready for Open challenge
15 Jul 09 |  Golf
Clarke eager for Open at Portrush
14 Jul 09 |  Golf
Torrance talks up Monty's chances
15 Jul 09 |  Golf
McIlroy bullish for Turnberry bid
15 Jul 09 |  Golf
Baker relishing links challenge
15 Jul 09 |  Golf
Golf on the BBC
01 Jul 11 |  Golf
Open round four tee-off times
18 Jul 09 |  Golf
Turnberry gallery
14 Jul 09 |  Golf
Memories of Turnberry
13 Jul 09 |  Golf


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